Derech eretz kadma l'?

I took the sheirut from Bar Ilan to Geula, where it ends, instead of getting off earlier at Binyani HaUma because I decided to experiment with the timing of that route and meanwhile get a little tour of Geula.
As we (the driver, 6 charedis, and me) were driving through Geula, (which for your reference looks exactly like Crown Heights or Borough Park, only the black hats are different) I got to thinking about how to manage the religious versus secular Jew problems in this country. I thought, ‘maybe I’ll go this route more often to remember after all those hours of study why I’m studying this and how I can try to work it out.’

I departed the sheirut at the end and headed towards the center of town where I’d catch the 14. I was walking up from a little past Mea Shearim when there was a ditch in the sidewalk, deep for walking in the dark. Obviously, I didn’t see it. It was a pretty bad fall, considering; I’m not unused to tripping and spraining, etc, but this was a hard fall and both my left ankle and right knee were bruised and sprained.

As I began to pick up my eyes to focus on getting back up, I saw two charedi girls, about my age or a little older, walking towards me, watching me. I was struggling to get up, and finally did when I felt all the pain surge through my legs. The girls came closer, closer, and finally passed me, watching without saying a word or an offer.

I’m fairly independent and try not to rely on people, especially ones I don’t know. I didn’t need help because in the end I managed to get to the bus stop limping on my own. I brushed myself off as they passed by, and felt a struggle to hold back from stereotyping.

But there are some struggles that are harder to overcome. As I muttered ‘Todah rabah’ when they passed, I could feel the words lingering in the air, stinging my cheeks. ‘Derech eretz kadma l’torah’ – they’ve been instilling that into my mordern orthodox education since I can remember.

You can ban me to the back of the Geula-bound sheirut; you can stare at my short sleeves; I don’t really care what you think because I think your black hats and dark stockings are a sorry cover-up.

When you have no decency to offer, what am I supposed to offer you?